Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Jackie Lewis (CF 133)

RE: Repeal of ethnicity clause: section 1 part 2 of the ‘Children & Families Bill’.

My name is Jackie Lewis and I have broad experiences of over seventeen years in working as a psychotherapist, although I have not practiced for the past year. It is in my professional capacity that I write to express grave concerns about your proposed amendment of section 1 (5) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 within a draft Children and Families Bill. The government states the following:

1. An over-emphasis on ethnicity, race and religion results in the devaluing and/or demotion of other important areas of a child’s needs, such as the need for security and placement in a loving home environment.

2. As a consequence, the over-emphasis on ethnicity, race and religion directly leads to a disproportionate delay in the placement of Black and Minority Ethnic children (BME) in ‘loving homes’.

1. UN CONVENTION OF THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN

1.1. The government’s position is a false one when considered against the Provisions and principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that set minimum entitlements and freedoms with regards to children’s race, culture, religion, language and religion that should be respected by all governments, especially one such as that of the UK which is widely believed to be supportive of key provisions on international human rights. The Government’s proposed action begins to destroy the basis of such belief.

1.2. The variables, of ethnicity, race and religion are inter-reliant and inseparable and are seamlessly linked to all the areas of a child’s needs. Therefore, the government cannot ensure some rights without, or at the expense of others, as this would compromise the child’s human rights. There can be no justification for the removal of "due consideration" to the Convention, as removal fails to protect all the rights and freedoms of the child, which are considered necessary in underpinnings for the children to reach their full potential.

2. TRANSRACIAL PLACEMENT IS NOT A PANACEA

2.1. No matter how loving a white family may be, transracial placement cannot validly be considered the panacea it is increasingly considered – perhaps as part of a move that has cost reduction as an underlying motivation. The proposal presumes ‘transracial placements’ to be problem-free when religion, race, culture or linguistic background is either taken out of the assessment process or down-graded. But the removal of these critical factors serves only to deny the real impact of racism in the society and how this could affect transracially adopted children. History has taught us that many children of African heritage transracially adopted, faced mental health challenges and confusions regarding their identity as adults. Removal of due consideration serves to discriminate against black and minority ethnic people. It is also worth recognizing that the policy and practice British Government’s is now seeking to overturn was put into place as a result of campaigning conducted decades ago by a well informed and informative black/Afrikan adoption and fostering campaign in which individuals like John Small (later of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, Jamaica) and David Akinsanya led. The campaign was in no small measure prompted by the knowledge of the experiences of a generation of young Afrikan-Caribbean and Afrikans who had experienced adoption by ‘colour-blind’ liberals and long-term residence in children’s homes.

3. THE IMPACT OF DISCRIMINATION

3.1. The history of transracial placements also needs to be assessed in consideration of important evidence of failed transracial placements. These placements greatly disadvantaged Black children, undermined their cultural and racial competence/confidence and contributed no lasting identity development of African children and children from other marginalised backgrounds.

3.2. How does the government ensure that the needs of all children are met in a society where there is a tendency to underestimate the effects of racial harassment and racial discrimination upon children, and in some instances claims that racism doesn’t exist. A true commitment to equality necessitates action to ensure that children are not neglected, harmed nor abused.

4. SUPPORTING BLACK FAMILIES TO FOSTER/ADOPT

4.1. The proposal give the firm impression of ignoring the truth that most white prospective adopters want to adopt babies and in the absence of available white babies, they would adopt black babies in the misguided belief that ‘love is enough’, but can love ever be enough in a society where racism and class-based approaches to life choices and life chances exists? In such a society the development of a positive self-identity and group-identity is crucial to their mental health and social adjustment. A child’s ethnicity, race and religion are essential constituents to their ‘positive’ developmental and adjustment process.

4.2. The over-representation of African heritage children within the care-system are replicated across mental-health services, penal institutions, school expulsions and other such institutions and the deep seated underlying issues of Institutional Racism need to be acknowledged and addressed. These cannot be wished away by the removal of hard fought for provisions to safeguard African heritage children.

4.3. Social service agencies have historically failed to encourage and secure the recruitment of Black foster/adoptive parents in adequate numbers which greatly limits the availability of Black families for adoption and fostering of BME children.

4.4. The overrepresentation of Blacks in unemployment statistics, Institutional Racism, the continuing poor performance within the economy and the growing number of African British graduates remain underemployed or grossly underemployed more than one year after leaving university are some of the crucial factors that influence the underrepresentation of same-race adoption/fostering within Black families the UK.

4.5. If the government is committed to equality and utilising its power to work towards changing inequalities in the area of fostering and adoption; if the Government seriously wishes to remove the placement waiting times for BME children then due regard should be given to addressing the factors inhibiting the recruitment of BME fostering and adoptive parents.

5. THE IMPACT OF DISCRIMINATION

5.1. The history of transracial placements also needs to be assessed in consideration of important evidence of failed transracial placements. These placements greatly disadvantaged Black children, undermined their cultural and racial competence/confidence and contributed no lasting identity development of African children and children from other marginalised backgrounds.

5.2. How does the government ensure that the needs of all children are met in a society where there is a tendency to underestimate the effects of racial harassment and racial discrimination upon children, and in some instances claims that racism doesn’t exist. A true commitment to equality necessitates action to ensure that children are not neglected, harmed nor abused.

Conclusion

Whilst the government does not advocate transracial adoption in instances when same-race adoptees are readily available, the underrepresentation of Black/African heritage adoptees and foster carers can be considered an attack against the Black child/family. Black children needs homes and equality necessitates that the government needs to be exhaustively supportive in placing African heritage children with loving, caring Afrikan families – these do exist.

Accounts of the transracial adoption experiences (African heritage children with white parents; I have not yet come across a white child that was adopted by Black parents) narrated by adults who were adopted as children must be given due consideration. I have heard accounts of not being supported to navigate through the cultural-political minefield with self-confidence and self-worth. The racial dynamics exist and cannot be skirted over nor should the government mitigate, minimize or underplay historical structures of white supremacy and the society’s euro-centric world view.

Removal of the safeguards might save the child from care homes but will almost certainly leave the child with either a confused and disjointed sense of belonging or at worst a lifelong feeling of self-hatred. We experience the world in racial terms and the perspectives of power, class are factors of influence. To be white in a society which values whiteness can and does place black children at a psychological disadvantage.

April 2013

Prepared 26th April 2013